May 18, 2012

A Magical Mother's Day Musicale in DC's Palisades

These days, we often read about the loss of a sense of belonging to a community... about people living lonely, isolated lives.  You can find this sad theme recurring in publications ranging from Robert Putnam's 2000 book Bowling Alone to this month's Atlantic cover story "Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?"

But last Sunday, I was reminded it's still possible to enjoy a supportive sense of community -- even in the middle of the big city -- if you have neighbors like mine. Our "hood" consists of a dozen homes on a cul-de-sac in the Palisades section of Washington, DC. I've lived here since the early 1960s, and there's more sense of community today than ever before.

Stephen Marche, author of the Atlantic cover story, writess that Americans have always felt a tension between our wish for isolation and "the impulse to cluster in communities that cling and suffocate," starting with the Pilgrims and the Salem witch trials. Not so in our hood. While most of the yard signs and bumper stickers tout Democratic candidates, we're comfortable with the few who support that other party. No witch trials here even in these hyper-partisan times.

We're an independent lot with each of us going our separate ways and gather as a group only a couple times each year, so we're not a community that "clings and suffocates."  But we chat happily and frequently as we run into each other.

Marche quotes Eric Klineberg, an NYU sociologist: "It's the quality, not the quantity, of social interaction, that best predicts loneliness." Or generates a sense of community, I'd add.

So finally... my segue way to the Mother's Day Musicale. Contrary to what I had expected -- given DC's high-priced houses and problematic public school system -- we now have more kids on the cul-de-sac than ever before. Most of them are taking music lessons. So Alice, our community "activist," suggested we gather on Mother's Day for a recital by these talented youngsters. We realized we're also blessed with musically talented adults, so they were invited to participate, too. 

Fortunately, one of the neighbors has a big living room -- large enough for a grand piano, a huge harp, a set of drums, and a large group of happy neighbors. It was a splendid occasion, captured inadequately in the pictures that follow.

Musicale Photo Album
Billy Grummer kicked off the show by playing his ukulele and singing a pop tune by Jason Mraz. This shot -- thoughtfully provided by Sid Banerjee -- captured Billy as he was rehearsing for his debut... which blew us away!

The next performer, Evan Banerjee, continued the amazing display of youthful talent with his piano playing:

Evan isn't the only talented member of his family. Here are his father Sid and older brother Aiden with a guitar duet:

The Medish family also shows musical talent. Here in separate performances are the Medish brothers --first Nicolai, and then Vadim.

Nora Kelsall, our only professional musician, has played at Strathmore Hall and other similar venues. Her harp solo was exquisite:

Another highlight was the violin duet by Alice Stewart and Sue Medish. Here they each tune up:

Then they create a terrific duet:

An international flavor spiced up the musicale, as my housemate Nimesh played his Nepali madal drum. Fortunately, after the drum solo, he was "coerced" to sing a Nepali love song, which he directed toward his bride Bhawana, who was smiling in the audience.

Unfortunately, I was so mesmerized by Bryan Elwood's electric drum grand finale that I forgot to take a photo.

Everybody played a part. Alice Stewart was the catalyst with the original idea. Kate Koffman was the producer and mistress of ceremonies. Sue Medish opened her beautiful home to the troubadours and their fans. Madeline Johnson catered the event, with a menu that included amazing gingerbread pancakes. Let me know if you want the recipe!

And then there were a few of the no-talents like me, whose contribution was to cheer the others on.

Someone suggested in our subsequent exchange of laudatory emails that we change the name we've given   our hood from the present one ("End of Eskridge") to "Best of Neighborhoods."  Not a bad idea.

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